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Thread: The issue that led to the Right becoming Pro-Life

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    tWebber Hypatia_Alexandria's Avatar
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    The issue that led to the Right becoming Pro-Life

    The campaign in the nineteenth century to criminalise abortion was led by two particular groups. One was made up of Protestant nativists who feared that the influx of millions of migrants into the USA would result in a large population of “foreign” and/or Catholic children being born. This group perceived that a ban on abortion would ensure that the number of white “desirable” American children would remain high and act as a counter to the foreign babies being born. The other group was led by the eugenicists who feared that access to legal abortion would suppress the birth rates of the wealthy “better” women. As noted by Leslie J Reagan “White male patriotism demanded that maternity be enforced among white Protestant women.”

    This was exemplified by comments made by Horatio Storer, a Bostonian doctor who lamented in his tract of 1867 Why Not? A Book for Every Woman that “abortions are infinitely more frequent among Protestant women than among Catholic”, and went on to ask of his [female] audience whether “the great territories of the far West, just opening to civilisation, and the fertile savannas of the South now disenthralled” [this was published barely two years after the end of the Civil War] would be “filled with our own children of those of aliens”?

    Yet by the middle of the twentieth century abortion, while mostly illegal, continued to be widely practised in the USA.

    In her latest work, The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, Katherine Stewart devotes a chapter to Abortion and the Christian Right. The chapter is very illuminating.

    According to Stewart the notion that is held among many Christians today that, in general, Protestants have always opposed abortion and that the Republican Party has likewise been the "party of life" is a complete myth.

    From the late 1960s many Southern evangelicals held that abortion was a deeply personal issue in which government shouldn’t play a role. In 1968, a symposium sponsored by the Christian Medical Society and Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of evangelicalism, refused to characterise abortion as sinful, citing “individual health, family welfare, and social responsibility” as justifications for ending a pregnancy.

    Stewart also points out that when the Supreme Court handed down its decision on Roe v. Wade, W. Barry Garrett the Washington bureau chief of the Baptist Press wrote, “Religious liberty, human equality, and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision.” W. A. Criswell, the Southern Baptist Convention’s former president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, also one of the most famous fundamentalists of the 20th century, was likewise pleased noting, “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person, and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”

    Two years earlier in 1971 the Southern Baptist Convention had endorsed a resolution that called for the legalisation of abortion in order to preserve the “emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother”.

    So why did everything change?

    The answer, it would appear, comes down to politics and money, in particular tax exemption.

    Since the late 1960s there were those among the Right wing and/or religious political activists who wanted change. These individuals were angry at the way they perceived society was developing with increasing liberalism, the rise of feminism, and also the civil rights movement, which they considered challenged Southern views of self determination concerning segregation.

    Enter stage left one Paul Weyrich, a conservative Christian political activist who had formed his political thinking during the Goldwater campaign of 1964 and who coined the phrase “moral majority”. Weyrich was viscerally anti-Communist, economically libertarian, and was deeply distrustful of the civil rights movement. From the late 1970s he became a figurehead for The New Right and would go on to establish, or play a valuable role in, a number of prominent groups of the Right [Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Council, and the Free Congress Foundation the Council for National Policy].

    Weyrich reasoned that if the Right could access the religious vote it would have power within its reach and he urged televangelists like Falwell, Robinson, and Robertson to become involved in conservative politics.

    Weyrich knew that one of the issues of primary concern to many leading white Southern pastors, including Bob Jones Sr. and Jerry Falwell was the fear that their educational institutions might be deprived of their lucrative tax advantages. Both Falwell and Jones endorsed and practised segregation and Weyrich knew that they [and others] feared the Supreme Court might end tax exemptions for segregated Christian schools.

    As Stewart notes, ”It would be hard to overestimate the degree of outrage that the threat of losing their tax-advantaged status on account of their segregationism provoked. As far as leaders like Bob Jones Sr. were concerned, they had a God-given right not just to separate the races but also to receive federal money for the purpose.”

    According to Stewart what was needed by this group on the Right was an issue that could rally broad conservative support and provide an acceptable appeal. However, Weyrich quickly realised that defending tax advantages for racially segregated “whites only” schools was not going to be it.

    Other issues were considered [anti-Communism, anti-Feminism, school prayer] and rejected. Finally, according to Randall Balmer [himself an evangelical Christian as well as a historian] it was in 1979 “a full six years after Roe, that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools.”

    For those who are interested I do recommend Ms Stewart's work.
    "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful" Attrib. Seneca 4 BCE - 65 CE

  2. Amen Charles, JimL amen'd this post.
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    tWebber
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    Very interesting.

    In very many cases the "Christian Right" is neither Christian nor right.
    "Yes. President Trump is a huge embarrassment. And it’s an embarrassment to evangelical Christianity that there appear to be so many who will celebrate precisely the aspects that I see Biblically as most lamentable and embarrassing." Southern Baptist leader Albert Mohler Jr.

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    tWebber
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    The history proposed in the original post is interesting. It does suggest that different motives both for and against legalized abortion under different circumstances. It is surprising that people ever thought of abortions so lightly or so cleverly. There also is the reminder how the masses are led into political movements in so many cases -- probably in most cases. (I had briefly thought about the political persuasion of the masses recently. Some of my thoughts pertained to propaganda for the wars. Some thoughts pertained to the current covid-19 media.) It is too bad that eugenics again is being carried forth by the current promotion of abortions.

    I'm not exactly sure how to handle the situation of women getting abortions, but abortions certainly should be minimized. The Democrats have been trying to maximiz

    Hopefully Christians will continue on this advanced degree of understanding of the sins of abortion. Knowledge is growing.
    Last edited by mikewhitney; 06-15-2020 at 01:07 AM.

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    God bless the USA. Ack!! Bill the Cat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles View Post
    Very interesting.

    In very many cases the "Christian Right" is neither Christian nor right.
    The funny thing is that the early Christian church was decidedly anti-abortion. So, the pro-life position is both Christian, AND right.


    Without a clear-cut definition of sin, morality becomes a mere argument over the best way to train animals --- Manya the Holy Szin --- The Quintara Marathon ---

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill the Cat View Post
    The funny thing is that the early Christian church was decidedly anti-abortion. So, the pro-life position is both Christian, AND right.
    Wasn't this whole thing Tassman's screed?
    "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

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    God bless the USA. Ack!! Bill the Cat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cow Poke View Post
    Wasn't this whole thing Tassman's screed?
    I just find it interesting how the left reports on the moral majority era, like those politicians somehow represent today's conservative mindset. But they are the first ones to throw a hissy over the KKK being founded by the Democrats of the time. Like evolving thought is somehow not permitted on the right.


    Without a clear-cut definition of sin, morality becomes a mere argument over the best way to train animals --- Manya the Holy Szin --- The Quintara Marathon ---

    I may not be as old as dirt, but me and dirt are starting to have an awful lot in common --- Stephen R. Donaldson ---

  8. Amen Cow Poke, RumTumTugger amen'd this post.
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    See, the Thing is... Cow Poke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill the Cat View Post
    I just find it interesting how the left reports on the moral majority era, like those politicians somehow represent today's conservative mindset. But they are the first ones to throw a hissy over the KKK being founded by the Democrats of the time. Like evolving thought is somehow not permitted on the right.
    Isn't "evolving thought" "progressive"?
    "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

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    tWebber Thoughtful Monk's Avatar
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    The OP ignores the role Roman Catholism had in the modern pro-life movement. My understanding the pro-life movement got going by Roman Catholics and Protestant then discovered the common ground.
    "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

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    God bless the USA. Ack!! Bill the Cat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cow Poke View Post
    Isn't "evolving thought" "progressive"?
    I prefer calling it a return to sanity.


    Without a clear-cut definition of sin, morality becomes a mere argument over the best way to train animals --- Manya the Holy Szin --- The Quintara Marathon ---

    I may not be as old as dirt, but me and dirt are starting to have an awful lot in common --- Stephen R. Donaldson ---

  12. Amen Cow Poke amen'd this post.
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    tWebber Hypatia_Alexandria's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill the Cat View Post
    The funny thing is that the early Christian church was decidedly anti-abortion. So, the pro-life position is both Christian, AND right.
    I think it would be more accurate to note that the severe and unremitting condemnation of abortion and infanticide, which was widely practised within contemporary Hellenistic society, was a visible mark of the writings of various ante and post Nicene ECFs and of course it was Judaic teachings for the respect towards all human life that influenced such views.
    "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful" Attrib. Seneca 4 BCE - 65 CE

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